Johannesburg

5 Beautiful Joburg walks

20 Sep 2021
Under the trees at The Wilds
Under the trees at The Wilds
Photo by James Delaney
At any time of year Joburg's many parks, nature reserves and tree-lined pathways are a vital place for both locals and visitors to enjoy the great outdoors. While Joburg may be defined by its mining history, the dust kicked up by mining also spurred the desire for greenery and today Joburg has the distinction of being one of the world’s largest human-made forests. 

If you are looking to enjoy a gentle stroll in Joburg's greenery, here are some recommended city walks.

Johannesburg Botanical Gardens

This sprawling green oasis has extensive parkland for enjoying long walks with views of the distant ridges and wide lawns that slope down towards the dam. By making a full circuit of the entire park you'll pass wetland areas and through small copses of trees, across wide-open lawns and you can end by feeding the ducks on the dam. This is a dog-friendly park so don't be surprised to see more pooches than people in some areas of the park.

Post walk coffee: Park at the entrance to the park at the corner of Thomas Bowler and Olifants Road and you will be just across the street from the delightful Sweet Tea and Chickadee cafe who specialise in authentic all-American treats from the south like pumpkin pie and banana pudding. Their Key Lime Pie is second to none. 

Where: There are entrances and parking on Olifants Road next to the dam and at the corner of Thomas Bowler Road in Emmarentia.

Cental Melville Koppies Nature Reserve

Spring on the koppies. Photo by Mark Straw

A nature reserve and heritage site, the geology of Melville Koppies goes back three billion years and the area represents the last conserved remnant of Johannesburg's ridges as they were before gold was discovered in 1886. The vegetation here is entirely indigenous and provides an excellent example, close to the city centre, of the richness of highveld grasses, flowers, and trees.

Every Sunday morning from 08:00 to 11:30 (note you must be out by this time as the gates will be locked!) the central section of the koppies is opened to the public with security and access managed by The Friends of the Melville Koppies organisation who care for the site and its precious eco-system. At the entrance you'll be provided with a very detailed map of the area and if you set off early enough you can cover several kilometres. Entrance costs R80 per person and the proceeds go towards the maintenance and rehabilitation of the reserve.

Post-walk coffee: The entrance to the Central Koppies is a five-minute drive from Melville's 7th Street where you'll find a great selection of friendly cafes and coffee shops. See our guide to Melville's 7th Street for some ideas on where to go.

Where: Access to the Central Koppies is directly opposite the Marks Park sports club car park. Visitors to the koppies may use the club car park for free.

Modderfotein Reserve

Autumn in Modderfontein Reserve. Photo by Heather Mason

This peaceful, privately managed 275-hectare reserve in Modderfontein (approximately 8km east of Sandton) is crisscrossed by relatively flat walking and cycling trails that are very well-maintained and signposted. In 2020 this sprawling reserve really came into its own with the arrival of the weekend Fourways Farmers Market (currently closed) and the expansion of the cycling trails managed by Taroko Trails, with routes ranging up to 40km.  By following the various walking trails you can complete an 8km loop of the reserve passing various wetlands and dams along the way where there are also bird hides.  

Post walk coffee: Unfortunately under current lockdown regulations the weekend Fourways Farmer's Market is currently closed so we recommend instead packing a flask and enjoying a cup of tea en route.

Where: There are now two entrances to the reserve, on Arden Rd (off Ardeer Rd) in Modderfontein and at Taroko Farm, Norfolk Lane, Klipfontein. Note that there is a R30 entrance fee per person to visit the reserve.

Westcliff Steps

Jacaranda season on the Westcliff Steps. Photo by Liz at Lancaster

Situated in one of Joburg’s most affluent old suburbs, the Westcliff Steps, dubbed the “stairway to heaven”, consist of several flights of stone steps (210 in total), popular with joggers and dog walkers alike. Less a gentle stroll and more a determined hike up the hill, once you eventually get to the top you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of Joburg's trees.  On the way look out for the blue plaques on walls of the surrounding homes, that mark them out as heritage properties. 

Post walk coffee: After descending the steps head down to Tyrone Avenue in Parkview where there are a number of lovely coffee shops for a post-walk coffee or a cold drink. See our neighbourhood guide to Tyrone Avenue for some ideas of where to go.

Where: The entrance to the steps is situated on Crescent Drive in Parkview. You can also access the stairs by walking up Wicklow Avenue and at the intersection with Westcliff Drive, through a pedestrian gateway.

The Wilds

Surveying the sunset reflections on a water feature at The Wilds

This magnificent historic park with its stone-cut paths and water features, and awe-inspiring city views, has sprung back to life in recent years after being long neglected in the 1990s as a terrible crime wave swept through the area. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team of volunteers, led by artist James Delaney, The Wilds has regained its rightful place as one of Joburg's most beautiful (dog-friendly) parks. 8km of pathways crisscross 40 acres of parkland that stretch up and around a steep ridge, split into two sections by the busy Houghton Drive.

The West section of the park is the most popular and most visited. Make sure to follow the signs up the hill to the sundial for an amazing Joburg skyline view and don't miss the Owl Forest installation by James Delaney next to the scenic fever tree lawns. The long stretch of the East Wilds is accessed via a bridge over the road and is, for want of a better word, 'wilder', with rocky outcrops and some areas of paths that are still being cleared. It is recommended that if you visit the East Wilds to go with dogs or in a small group as this area of the park is more difficult for security to patrol.

Post walk coffee: Unfortunately The Wilds is not in walking distance of any cafes. For a post-walk coffee or lunch Tyrone Avenue in Parkview or Grant Avenue in Norwood are both a 5-10 minute drive away.

Where: the car park and entrance is on Houghton Drive (on the northbound side, after Roedean School). If this small car park is full you can also park on St Patrick’s Rd (below St John’s College) and walk over the road. 

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